Thursday 19 September 2019

Optical illusion, or fairies? Cars roll uphill on Ireland's 'magic roads'

The 'magic road'
The 'magic road'
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

Imagine sitting in your car, facing downhill, and suddenly your car rolls back upwards.

What has happened?

You’re on a "magic road". Or rather, you’re watching an optical illusion unfold.

Eimear Flanagan, a tour guide with Away A Wee Walk, says "magic roads" are rare but one such road is Magic Hill in the Mourne Mountains in County Down.

“If you drive down to the gates near Spelga Dam, switch off the engine half way down the hill, take off the handbrake and take your feet off the brakes, the car will appear to roll up the hill.”

“It’s an optical illusion. Because of the lay of the land around the area, and you’ve hills all around at 360 degrees, everything about that hill looks like its downhill but water always runs downhill so it is actually just an optical illusion.”

“If you take out a bottle of water, and pour the water onto the road it’ll appear to flow up the hill.”

Magic roads can also be found close to Mahon Falls in the Comeragh mountains in Waterford, in the Cooley mountains, and behind Ben Bulben in Co Sligo.

But Eimear says: “Magic Hill in the Mourne moutains is probably the one that really looks like a hill. You’d go a long way to find a magic hill that has such a gradient on it. It’s terrific fun and if you do it properly and do it with kids you can have great fun with it, and tell them this is where the fairies will tell us to get off the hill, and you take out your bottle of water as well.”

“They’re rare enough events. Every time there's all sorts of theories about it. It looks like you’re going downhill, but actually you’re not.”

If you're in search of the "Magic Road" experience, here are four to choose from:

  • "Magic Hill" near Spelga Dam, Co Down
  • "Magic Road" near Mahon Falls, Co Waterford
  • "Magic Hill" near the Long Woman's Grave in the Cooley Mountains, Co Louth
  • Magic Hill north of Benbulben, Co Sligo

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